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Purina® Study Confirms Link Between Body Fat and Chronic Health Conditions

Study Provides Clues to the Relationship Between Body Fat and Glucose Tolerance
9/30/2003

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (September 30, 2003) – Results from a Purina study confirm the link between body fat and the development of chronic health conditions. The article, published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition, also found a link between the length of time a subject was overweight and the subject's longevity and how early in life the subject's health conditions developed. The findings are additional results from the landmark Purina Life Span Study, the first completed lifelong canine diet restriction study.

Researchers discovered that excess body fat reduces insulin sensitivity, which impedes the ability of cells to absorb glucose. Glucose and insulin left in the bloodstream can hinder the ability of organs, tissues and body systems to function properly, which can result in the development of chronic health conditions.

"This study is significant because it sheds some light on why obesity can lead to disease. It shows that excess body fat is a factor in the early development of chronic health conditions and shortened life span," says Brian T. Larson, Ph.D., nutrition research scientist, and primary author of the study.

Even Moderate Weight Gain Can Be A Problem

Further analysis indicated that the impact of compromised glucose tolerance and insulin resistance on health appeared when the dogs were moderately overweight, not grossly obese.

The study showed that on average, insulin resistance began to appear in dogs that scored a 6-6.5 (overweight) on the 9-point Purina Body Condition System (BCS), with 4.5-5 being ideal body condition. A score of 6-6.5 is equivalent to 20-25 percent over ideal body weight. In human terms, this is comparable to a man that should weigh 180 pounds actually weighing 216-225 pounds.

Other Purina research found that most owners couldn't accurately assess their dogs' body conditions. When owner and expert scores were compared, only 28 percent of owners characterized their pets as above ideal body condition, while 79 percent of the experts scored those same animals to be above ideal body condition. Dr. Larson says this gap is serious because pet owners are not likely to recognize that their pets are overweight and even moderate excess body fat can lead to problems.

Public Health Message … Less is More

The study confirms that being at ideal body condition plays a vital role in our pets' overall health and well being. “What pet owners need to learn from this study is that weight gain – whether slight or considerable – can have an impact on health and may even shorten their pets' lives,” says Dan Christian, DVM, executive director of the Purina Pet Institute.

"Limiting weight gain and early intervention are powerful tools to help decrease the development and severity of chronic health conditions,” adds Dr. Christian. “Dog and cat owners should see their veterinarians for an accurate body condition score and receive guidance on how to check their pet's BCS at home. If the veterinarian discovers your pet is overweight, he or she will help you with a weight loss plan."

To maintain ideal body condition, Dr. Christian recommends:

  • Check your pet's BCS monthly at minimum. Use the Purina Life Plan guidelines on the back of Purina dog food packages to help feed your dog to his ideal body condition.
  • Measure the amount of food you feed, limit treats and do not feed your pet table scraps.
  • Exercise with your pet, as approved by your veterinarian.

Purina Life Span Study

These new findings are part of the Purina Lifespan Study, the first-ever completed lifelong canine diet restriction study. Concluded in 2002, this 14-year study proved that a dog's media life span can be extended by 15 percent – nearly two years for the Labrador Retrievers in the study – by restricting diet to maintain ideal body condition.

For more information on the findings and the Purina Lifespan Study, visit the Purina Pet Institute website at www.purina.com. To request a copy of the Journal of Nutrition manuscript, contact Kerry Lyman at (314) 982-2094.

The Purina Pet Institute is the embodiment of Purina's commitment to achieve better nutrition for dogs and cats through scientific discovery and the enhancement of the pet/owner relationship.

Nestlé Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, humane education, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. One of the leading global players in the pet food industry, Nestlé Purina PetCare is part of Swiss-based Nestlé S.A. – the world's largest food company.

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